Firefighters taken on cops in charity basketball game

He has endured more than most adults will in a lifetime. But on Friday, 4-year-old cancer survivor Conor Hennessey of Plymouth got to be honorary captain and MVP for the day as Boston firefighters faced off with police to benefit cancer research.

Connor, who was diagnosed in January 2021 with advanced-stage cancer, has beaten the odds so far and yesterday got to ride in a fire engine, use its siren and then its loudspeaker to yell “Conor the brave!” on the way to A Shot for Life’s annual “Battle of the Badges” charity basketball game.

“It’s an amazing gesture,” Conor’s father, Kevin Hennessey, said. “It definitely made his day.”

At Garvey Park in Dorchester, firefighters sporting red jerseys and police officers in blue faced off to raise money for cancer research.

In the end, the firefighters beat the police 26 to 23, raising more than $10,000 for the cause.

“Conor’s shown great strength being out here,” Firefighter Paul Blaikie, of Engine 4 in the West End, said. “We’re here to support his cause.”

The game was held by A Shot for Life, a sports-based nonprofit started by Mike Slonina, whose mother was diagnosed in 2010 with what mistakenly was thought to be a malignant brain tumor. Slonina was just 18 at the time, but he wanted to make a difference.

So on April 9, 2011, Slonina set a basketball world record by shooting 73.2% from all over the floor for 24 hours. After the story was picked up by the New York Times, ESPN and other outlets, people from all over the world reached out, telling him what sports and cancer meant to them.

“At that point I decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.

Slonina founded A Shot for Life, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for programs at cancer research through charity sports games at all levels. For information or to make a donation, visit AShotForLife.org.

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